Dwayne Johnson was caught up between being “The Rock” and the hard place of trying to hit the puck.
Just prior to filming the “Tooth Fairy,” where he plays a minor-league hockey tough guy relishing ability to knock the dental work out of opposing players, Johnson assumed he’d have ample ability picking up the basics of ice skating for hockey scenes because of athletic background.
The longtime fan-favorite of World Wresting Entertainment and former defensive end at the University of Miami might have opted instead to learn how to ride a Zamboni.
“We had a two-week time period where we were going to learn how to skate,” Johnson explained the other day. “You talk to an athlete, and there’s a thread of arrogance when
there’s some physicality. `Oh, sure I can do it.’ That was my thought. `No problem. You need me to skate two weeks? I got it. I’ll be skating like I’ve been doing it my whole life.”‘
And how’d that go for you?
“It was very sobering,” he admitted. “We immediately realized we’d need some stunt doubles to make me look great.”
That, and more movie magic that involved hooking Johnson to overhead guide wires, were what got him through the movie that’ll be released Friday.
Not that we’re giving away a vital part of the ending – his character, Derek Thompson, ends up making it to Staples Center to play for the Kings – Johnson revealed some other trade secrets in how he pulled off this appearance in the sports-related
Question: What was the biggest problem in trying to get the skating part down?
Answer: “I ruptured my Achilles a couple year ago – it was while filming `The Game Plan,’ where I played a quarterback who had a young daughter. I was rehearsing, and I did a rollout, jumped, threw the ball and when I landed … snap! Within two minutes on the ice I took a spill that quickly reminded me how immobile my ankle was.”
Q: In the movie, your character talks about having to play with a “bad wing” – a wrecked shoulder – so what injuries have you collected during your athletic career that tell you when it’s going to snow on a cold day?
A: “I’ve four knee surgeries – twice on each one – reconstruction on the shoulder, two ruptured discs in my back during my senior year of college, which really derailed my dreams of playing pro ball. The knees were when I was younger and could bounce back but the Achilles was the most painful. Not so much when it happened but the pain from the post-surgery. That really kept me on my toes.”
Q: How did the whole scene come about when you played for the Kings – was it filmed before a game, or between periods?
A: “We actually had Staples Center to ourselves. It was empty. We got a couple of Kings and made it all look good.”
Q: Does this experience leave you with a new appreciation for what hockey players have to do through?
A: “You bet. I’m a highlight guy, every morning watching ESPN `SportsCenter.’ And having wrestled for seven years, I was in a lot of the same arenas in cities where they had hockey teams, so I’d get a chance to meet a lot of players who’d come out to the shows. We did some filming in Vancouver as well. But now, having spent a lot of time on the ice, seeing how fast the game is, how violent the game is, I have a newfound respect for hockey players. I do watch them with a different perspective.
“I played and wrestled with some pretty aggressive guys who love that physical violence. And I know lot a lot of stuntmen, too. But I’ve got to say that, between the collisions we had in football and the fictional violence that’s in wresting, hockey players are craziest I’ve ever been around. And most passionate about what they do. It’s in their DNA.
“The violence and speed of the game was really eye opening for me. And the other thing I didn’t find out until I was there – did you how thin the pads are in hockey? It’s astonishing how thin they are. So combined with the speed at which those collisions happen … man.”